Monday, 08 June 2020

South Africa's insurance brokers are using technology to respond to the challenges of lockdown

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The COVID19 lockdown has been a catalyst for brokers to accelerate their use of cloud-based technology platforms to manage client relationships remotely. Unlike ecommerce, which is very much in the public domain, Insurtech platforms have surged in relevance and market share behind the scenes.

Cape Town based Simply Financial Services, an Insurtech company selling life, disability and funeral cover online, has seen a five-fold increase in sales by brokers on their No-Touch Broker Platform since lockdown started. This mirrors international trends. For example, in the UK, AEGIS has seen substantial increase in demand for their PPL Platform which provides underwriting for several (non-life) products, allowing their underwriters to continue delivering business during lockdown[i]. 

Where brokers have previously viewed Insurtech platforms as competition to their business, they are now seeing the value of adopting cloud-based systems that allow them to continue writing new business and servicing clients.  Technology platforms ease the administrative burden and give brokers the freedom to focus on the relationship with the customer – which is where the real value lies in the intermediary role. Nathan Golia, chief editor of Digital Insurance magazine says “if we ever needed a reminder as an industry of the importance of technology, remote functionality, online interaction and digital processes, it is this current environment in which many of us find ourselves.”[ii]

More than just facilitating broker relationships, technology platforms also provide the opportunity to improve governance and lessen fraud. Ben Potts of Novidea says that “with the right cloud-based systems in place they (brokers) can help to facilitate more robust governance and compliant systems.”[iii] Potts says that using technology in this way “is the future of broking”. 

Simply’s online broker platform launched in May 2019 and has come into its own during lockdown.  Anthony Miller, CEO of Simply, explains, “Traditional life insurers and brokers have struggled during lockdown, with face to face players largely shut for new business. Fortunately, our No-Touch Broker Platform has enabled our brokers to sell Simply Products, which are underwritten by OMART and don’t require medicals or blood tests, remotely in a secure way. They’ve grabbed the opportunity and our monthly broker sales have increased by more than 500%.”

According to Piet Wolmarans of Iemas Insurance Brokers, “By digitising our products and ensuring they co-exist with our face-to-face service, we’ve been able to reach more people and offer them proper financial service and risk protection in a convenient way. This has been invaluable during lockdown, when digital sales have soared as a proportion of our overall business. ”

Miller says COVID-19 has caused “a seismic shift in consumer behaviour in relation to life insurance.  People suddenly see life cover as a must-have rather than a nice to have. And while people want advice from their brokers, they don’t want to meet face to face.  They don’t want to go to a clinic, see a nurse or give blood.  They want reliable life cover, remotely and right now,” he adds.

On the strong growth Simply has experienced since February, Miller says they’ve been in the right place at the right time: “No one could have predicted the Coronavirus pandemic or the impact it would have on digital life insurance.  We’re fortunate to be where the puck is. We’re fully digital and meeting the needs of insurers, brokers and customers alike.” 

But there is more to this story than just a temporary uptick in demand for digital insurance solutions.  Experts predict that, post-COVID, the world will change permanently in many ways.  Miller agrees.  “We’re going to see businesses that are well-suited to the new normal do better than ever.  The world is going to be less face-to-face and more remote and online.  In our industry, if you’re digital, if you can adapt quickly, if you can target accurately, the future looks good.  The time for digital life insurance has arrived.”

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More information is available at: www.simply.co.za